The Queens of the Triple Block finish the season with two big wins

UIS beats Southern Indiana, Bellarmine to close out the volleyball season.

Zach Lebovitz, Sports Reporter

 

As the UIS Prairie Stars Volleyball team closed out their season with two big wins over Southern Indiana and Bellarmine, it was also a sad weekend saying goodbye and thank you to five seniors who have completed their collegiate volleyball careers here at UIS: Kayla Katarzynski, Hailey Vitacco, Sarah Bond, Ashley Beaton, and Carly Wesolowski.

All five players played huge roles for the team.

Assistant coach Eddie Pennington, who was recently the recipient of the 2016 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Diversity Award, said, “Volleyball is not done for you. It’s always there and growing and there’s always something to be a part of, this is a huge piece of your volleyball careers. You’ll always be able to look back at your friends and all the memories and remember how great it was to be part of a strong program.”

In the first match against Southern Indiana, the Prairie Stars came out with the “W” 3-2 with set scores of 25-15, 20-25, 25-16, 21-25, and 15-13.

In the first set, the Prairie Stars had an early lead which they maintained throughout. The second set was a bit of a flip, with Southern Indy taking the early lead. Although the Prairie Stars fought and stayed in it, they came up short.

As the third set started, the players seemed to draw on new energy, which they used on the court to take the third set by a wide margin. Into the fourth, the Prairie Stars had their heads held high hoping to finish the match right then and there, but the Screaming Eagles fought back to even the match.

As the fifth set commenced, both teams battled it out. Point for point, both teams played hard, putting their hearts into every dig, set, and attack, and the Prairie Stars came out on top over Southern Indiana.

Leading the stat sheet for the Prairie Stars was Alyssa Hasler with seven blocks, Alli Splitt with five, and Beaton with four.

Tiffany Wentworth led the team with 28 assists, Lexi Hall with 22, and Katarzynski with three. With a record-setting 39 digs, Katarzynski led the way on defense, followed by Hall with 14, and Wesolowski with 10.

On the offensive side, like an eagle soaring in for its prey, Beaton, the senior with the nickname Smashley Beaston, had an outstanding 22 kills, followed by Splitt with 14 and Hasler with 11.

A fun fact from the match was that Hall, a 5’4” setter, led the team in overall attack percentage with a .500 mark.

Head coach Trey Salinas had this to say about the match: “It was a great showing overall. We saw some ups and downs in some of the sets but I think we had an all-star showing from our seniors. We started and played all five of our seniors the entire match and they all got to see some great action. So it was really, really nice to see.”

In the Senior Night game versus Bellarmine, the Prairie Stars beat the Knights in three sets, winning 25-21, 25-22, and 25-19.

In the first set the Prairie Stars took a very strong early lead, and while the Knights tried to fight back, the Prairie Stars came out on top.

Following the strong win, the Prairie Stars came back, but this time the Knights had the early lead. The Prairie Stars fought valiantly, reclaiming the lead and taking the set.

Going into the final set of the UIS Prairie Stars season, the teams started off very equal. Both fought for every point, staying within a point or two of one another, until the Prairie Stars kicked the intensity up a notch. They took the lead, winning the set 25-19 and the match 3-0.

Sarah Bond said, “I think the weekend went well. We ended up on a high note beating Bellarmine in three, so it was great going out strong, especially for the seniors…and being able to play in these last two matches was really special.”

Beaton led the Prairie Stars with 12 kills, followed by Tiffany Sunderlin with seven, and Splitt with five. Hasler led the team in blocks with seven, Splitt with six, and Vitacco with two.

Assists were led by Hall with 17, Wentworth with 10, and Katarzynski with five, who led the stat sheet for digs with 13, followed by Beaton with 12, and Hall with nine.

Beaton said, “The best way to go out was by winning our last two matches, and that’s what we did, and I couldn’t be prouder of the girls and all of our accomplishments.”

The Prairie Stars completed their season with an 11-20 overall record and a 4-14 GLVC record.

Pennington analyzed the season by saying that they had a tough time in the beginning, having ups and downs throughout the entire season, but he is glad that the team finished out strong.

Beaton agreed by saying, “the season had its ups and downs, we had that losing streak in the middle of our season. … UIS is the sleeping giant in our conference. We beat Wayne State, Southern Indy, Bellarmine, UMSL, which are teams that we rarely or never beat before and I think that once the girls pull together like we did this weekend were going to be unstoppable.”

Beaton then added, “My advice for all the remaining girls on the team and the newcomers, don’t take anything for granted. Play your heart out at every practice and every game cause it all goes by so fast. But also have some fun!”